It has been over a year since I walked the Hump Ridge Track but my memories of the stunning sunrise, towering mountains, singing birds, roaring stags and peaceful bush are still alive in my memories.
There are two ways to walk this track. You can freedom walk it with all sorts of ‘add on’s’ from heli-packing to upgrading your accommodation to booking in for a shower. Or you can go completely guided and all of the above is thrown in plus all meals and of course the very knowledgeable and experienced guide is there to help you on your way. I am afraid I missed the guided option because of the time of the year I could go but I got the upgraded accommodation and of course the yummy porridge that is also provided for all walkers.
The informative briefing at the local office is also a chance to ask all those last minute questions.
Because I was doing the freedom walk the day started early for me as there is an added two hour walk along the beach that the guided walkers get flown over. While you are walking towards the mountains you can actually see the ridgeline and the point in the distance where the accommodation is for the night and it is UP. I went in April last year and the night before they had an unusual cold front come through so that meant snow on the top and in fact it was a good 6 inches deep. Also it was the “roar” so all the stags in the hills and valleys were roaring for their mates.
After the beach you hit the beech forest and it is beautiful. Most of it as you are climbing is completely untouched with trees that are as old as NZ is, ferns of every shape and description, mosses that are the whole spectrum of green, water that rumbles deep in streams below you and the birds serenade you as you wander along.
After lunch is when the climbing begins in earnest but it is worth every step. As I got to the top the trees looked like they were clothed in cotton wool buds from the snow and everything was very still. Then not too far away on my right hand side was a stag roaring. Okaka Hut is the destination for the night and once the warden had shovelled off all the snow I was ushered into my room for the night.
The sunrise was definitely worth getting out of bed for as it came up over the sea and the Longwood Mountains to the East. Reds oranges and yellows all made richer by the snow that surrounded the lodge. After the morning porridge it was off around the nature loop track to take in the views south towards Solander Island, east towards Stewart Island, north towards the Takitimu Mountains and west towards the rest of Fiordland National Park and more mountains and ranges.
It would have been easy to spend a long time here but the rest of the track was beckoning. I turn southward and follow a board walk for about 5 kms. We wander through the enchanted forest, still accompanied by birds and the good company of fellow walkers. After the board walk we drop down through some more ancient forest to the first sign of the European history of the South Coast of Fiordland.
Lunch is had on the first of the viaducts. These viaducts were erected by the early pioneers to Southland and in particular the works of one of the biggest timber mills in the South Island - Port Craig. We follow the old tram lines back through to our second night’s accommodation at the new Port Craig village. Port Craig itself was created in 1916 and at its prime over 200 men, woman and children lived here.
Sadly the mill closed in 1929 when the great depression hit and the town was then completely abandoned.
After a cup of tea and a shower it is really interesting to have a fossick around the old ruins and left over relics from the past.
After another hearty breakfast of porridge it is off through the regenerating forest back towards Tuatapere. The forest recovery is amazing as the beech forest has almost fully recovered, the birds are still singing and it looks untouched to the untrained eye. If you compare the forest of today with the forest of yester-year you will notice the absence of the towering podocaps, the totoras, rimu and kahikatea but they are all on their way back.
As I wandered along the final stretch of beach we had been encouraged to look for fur seals and hector dolphins. Today wasn’t the day but it was a good chance to reflect on a walk I should have done years ago. It is a walk full of history, great forests, and stunning views, made richer by the friendly staff, comfortable accommodation, hot showers and of course the sound of stags roaring in the distance.